Query Workshop R-5: BEYOND CHAINS AND STARS

Halfway through the workshop! You guys know the drill: Read ’em, crit ’em, love ’em. And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

On with the show!

Full Query:

Dear Agent,

When slavers steal Juhan and his twin sister Chosi are stolen from their planet of psychics, their only comfort is the fact that they’re together. But even that small bit of sanity is taken when they are separated at auction.

Juhan is bought by the daughter of a political scion, Sadi Renult, a girl willing to lie to the entire galaxy in an attempt to desperate attempt to win Juhan’s people’s freedom. Caught in her glittering world of intrigue and politics, Juhan swears to find his sister. But as that vow and Sadi’s lies takes them across galaxies, he begins to see that his young owner is more than an arrogant rich girl. And he has to consider the cost of his promise—especially when people they both care for begin to die.

Meanwhile, Chosi is sold into blood sport. With her psychic ability, she earns a precarious position of value within the gladiator school, training the draken—wild creatures of smoke and fire—for the arena. In the midst of that hell, she forges a friendship with the slave Jemes and the draken she cares for. But when her defiance results in Jemes’ brutal killing in the arena, Chosi contemplates suicide as an escape from her chains. Yet, she can’t forget the brother who promised to find her, and even as she welcomes death and risk, she clings to that promise.

When Juhan demonstrates just how far he’ll go to rescue his sister, Chosi is forced to decide what she is willing to do to help herself.

BEYOND CHAINS AND STARS is a young adult sci-fi complete at 90,000 words that should appeal to fans of Glow and Across the Universe. I am an active member of YaLitchat and a founder of the blog Writerly Rejects. Thank you for your consideration.

Once More with Comments:

Dear Agent,

When slavers steal Juhan and his twin sister Chosi are stolen (Redundant verb here – cut “are stolen” since you already have “steal”) from their planet of psychics, their only comfort is the fact that they’re together. But even that small bit of sanity is taken when they are separated at auction. (I feel like this can be simplified. If they’re immediately separated at auction, then I’m not sure we need the stopover in “it’s okay, we’re together.” I think we might want to put Juhan’s promise that you mention later in here instead so that information is upfront.)

Juhan is bought by the daughter of a political scion, Sadi Renult, a girl willing to lie to the entire galaxy in n attempt to desperate attempt to win Juhan’s people’s freedom. Caught in her glittering world of intrigue and politics, Juhan swears to find his sister. But as that vow and Sadi’s lies takes them across galaxies, he begins to see that his young owner is more than an arrogant rich girl. And he has to consider the cost of his promise—especially when people they both care for begin to die. (I really like the conflict you’re setting up here, but I think the paragraph is a little too packed. It might just be a matter of reorganization. The information about Sadi working for the freedom of others should probably come after our POV guy Juhan realizes she’s more than just a political princess. And if you add the vow to the first paragraph, you have a bit more room to deal with Juhan’s particular relationship with Sadi.)

Meanwhile, Chosi is sold into blood sport. With her psychic ability, she earns a precarious position of value within the gladiator school, training the draken—wild creatures of smoke and fire—for the arena. In the midst of that hell, she forges a friendship with the slave Jemes and the draken she cares for. But when her defiance results in Jemes’ brutal killing in the arena, Chosi contemplates suicide as an escape from her chains. (How late in the book does this event happen? If it’s after, say, the halfway point, we might be getting too in-depth with the details. Maybe there’s another way to drive home the general suckage without revealing later developments.) Yet, she can’t forget the brother who promised to find her, and even as she welcomes death and risk, she clings to that promise.

When Juhan demonstrates just how far he’ll go to rescue his sister, Chosi is forced to decide what she is willing to do to help herself. (I don’t know that this sentence is doing so much for me. After all the grounding in specifics, this ending is so vague that there’s no punch. In particular, the idea that Chosi “is forced” like it’s outside of her control and she’s passive in the matter. I kind of want to reword it like a movie tagline: Juhan will find out how far he’ll go to rescue his sister. Chosi will discover the strength to help herself. Or something more clever than that.)

BEYOND CHAINS AND STARS is a young adult sci-fi complete at 90,000 words that should appeal to fans of Glow and Across the Universe. I am an active member of YaLitchat and a founder of the blog Writerly Rejects. Thank you for your consideration.

Overall: I’ve seen this query in another contest, and I’m really intrigued by it. I think the query just needs a little reorganization and refinement when it comes to walking that terrible line of “give details but don’t overly complicate it.” Play with the organization and the wording. Make sure each phrase is serving an important purpose that isn’t already served elsewhere. 

Okay, people, take it to the comments! Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to punch me in the face? Now’s your chance!

Remember: Every critique you do gets you an entry into a first chapter critique from Brenda!

6 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-5: BEYOND CHAINS AND STARS

  1. Maybe it was just me but the sentence, “Juhan is bought by the daughter of a political scion, Sadi Renult, a girl willing to lie to the entire galaxy…” confused the heck out of me. I thought Sadie was the political scion. I think the wording is ambiguous and needs to be changed up a bit. Simply saying something like, “Juhan is purchased by Sadie, the daughter of a political scion, who is willing to lie…” would fix that.
    That was the only other thing I saw confusing besides the suggestions that have already been given.
    However, your story does sound intriguing. Good luck!

  2. I have to agree with the others. You’ve got a great premise, but you’ll lose the agent or editor if you don’t boil the query down to the primary conflict and plot line of your story. You can present the rest of the details of your story in a synopsis.

  3. The premise here is great! I would read the pages simply because I think the world you’ve created is real and intriguing.

    I do agree with the others. It is a little too long-winded and detailed. You could probably take out at least three to four sentences and have a much tighter piece of work.

  4. Interesting world you’ve got here. I like the idea of the siblings separated and living such vastly different lifestyles, still trying to get back to each other. In the first paragraph, you duplicate the verb “stolen/steal” so pick one and reword the sentence. I agree with Becks that you should skip the comfort part, and get right to the separation and vow.
    In the second paragraph about Juhan and Sadi, I’d like to see Sadi put forth as the liar first, and then reveal her freedom fighter alter-ego. With Chosi’s paragraph, I agree with Becks. The suicide bit sounds like it comes into play far into the plot. Maybe focus on her depending on her brother rescuing her, but Jemes’s death makes her realize he may not come in time? I’m not sure as I’m not familiar with the story; just reaching here. Also, what defiance? If it directly results in Jemes’s death, we should know what she does to trigger it.
    The last line needs to bring everything home with the stakes, and Becks is right on saying “is forced” relegates Chosi to passivity. Something more active and hanging in the balance is needed.

    Good luck!

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